Why I Hired a Birth Photographer

When I had my first child the idea of photographing the occasion never even entered my mind. I don’t think I had ever heard of a birth photographer at that point. I didn’t own a camera and this was before the days of decent quality cell phone cameras. I do not have one single picture of him in the hospital. By the time baby number two made her appearance 5 years later Cameron at least managed to get a few cell phone photos. They are tiny and bad quality, but at least I have a few images of her sweet little face.

Each subsequent child has been the same. I few photos taken in the hospital after birth by Daddy. Maybe 1-2 of me holding the baby looking awful. All of them poor quality. As much as dad tries he just isn’t a photographer. His composition often leaves much to be desired, and the auto setting on the camera can’t capture the moment in the way that I want to see it.

Then with baby #6, and my first homebirth, we didn’t get one single picture on the day of his birth. After almost two hours of start and stop labor when he decided to come it was fast, and neither one of us even thought about picking up a camera! The first pictures I have of Jack are the next day when we were visiting with Grandpa and Grandma. I am so angry at myself!

I was determined not to let that happen with the next baby. When I was in labor with Wally I got out my camera, set all the settings where I wanted them, and placed it on the counter. We were not going to forget again! Cameron snapped a few pictures of me in labor and after he delivered the baby he grabbed the camera and snapped a few more. I LOVE those pictures. Seeing myself in those precious moments is such an amazing gift, but like The Little Mermaid “I want more!”

With my most recent birth I determined that I was going to have a birth photographer. I was incredibly fortunate to find Elsa Shaw, a wonderful photographer and person. We met before hand and really clicked. When I was in labor I called her up and she rushed right on over. Unfortunately Miss Hannah decided that she was quite eager to enter the world and arrived just a few minutes before Elsa did. Elsa still got some amazing photos of those precious moments right after birth. Since she wasn’t there very long that night she offered to come back the next day when the siblings came to meet baby. I have NEVER had any pictures with the entire family in them meeting the baby. There has always been a parent or older child missing from them because someone has to hold the camera.

These photographs are completely priceless to me. They show me my own strength. They tell Hannah the story of her amazing birth. They remind me of the nobility in motherhood. They tell a story to others about the value of motherhood. They will exist long after I am gone to remind Hannah and her children that they are part of a family that loves them dearly.

Thank you Elsa! You have given me the most amazing gift that I have ever received by documenting these moments for me.

Birth Story #8-Fastest Labor Yet

My labors always tend to be pretty fast and intense, but this birth story takes the cake for fastest one yet!

Hannah's Birth story- All natural hospital birth with baby #8 | SmithSquad.com | My fastest labor yet!

On Saturday night we went to a friends house for dinner. These were the friends that had volunteered to take our kids when we went to the hospital. I had been having contractions for about two days, but they were only 2-3 in an hour and not very intense. While at their house they got a bit stronger, but not any more often. At about 9 o’clock we packed the kids up and headed home. Cameron had met me there after work, so we each had our own car.

Not quite sure why, but getting in the car triggered something. Contractions immediately were strong and frequent. I pulled up my contraction timer app on my phone and they were timing at every 2.5-3.5 minutes. I got home before Cameron, he had to stop to get gas, and told the kids to go get dressed in their Sunday clothes. (Check out my post in Calming the Sunday Morning Chaos if that sounds totally weird to you) when Cam walked in the door I asked him to call our friends and tell them we were coming back with kids. “Now?” “Yes, NOW!”

We loaded the kids back in the car and drove over to drop them off. By this time contractions were getting hard to breathe through, especially while sitting buckled in the car! As Cameron unloaded kids I stood up and leaned over the front seat to make them a bit more manageable. I also retrieved my Serenity and Clary Sage essential oils from my bag which for some reason I thought should be placed in the very back of the van.

We got back in the car to drive the additional 20 minutes to the hospital. It was really killing me to not be able to use my typical pain management techniques of walking, rocking on the birth ball, and hot water. I was NOT handling the pain well at all and was even having a hard time reminding myself to breathe. You would think that being my eighth baby I’d be a pro, but it’s new each time and for some reason I just could not get myself into a good headspace this time.

We arrived at the hospital shortly before 11 and went to the desk. They immediately got me a wheelchair and printed up my forms. At this point I was hitting transition, they had Cameron sign the forms and quickly got me into labor and delivery. The nurses told me later that as I was rolled past their desk I looked calm so they thought I had a few hours. “Then we heard you and came running!”

As I was wheeled into the room I stood up to the edge of the bed and loudly said “Cameron she’s coming NOW!” Thankfully one thing I AM a pro at is letting my body take over when it comes to the point of pushing. I managed to get myself onto the bed for hands and knees, my favorite pushing position, as the nurses ran into the room. She was already crowning and I was still dressed! Cameron took care of the clothes as the nurses caught the head. Two good pushes and Hannah arrived at 11:07 pm.

At that point I mentally checked out. Everything had happened so fast and I hadn’t really been in control the way I had in the past. My brain just had to shut down for a few minutes. Within a few minutes of baby arriving the birth photographer got there. unfortunately she missed the big show, but she got some beautiful shots of the moments right after birth.

Natural birth story, baby #8 | SmithSquad.com | natural hospital birth | Fast labor | Mother and father bond over new baby
Yep, we made that! Photo courtesy of Elsa Shaw Photography

The on call doctor came in at that point, because my midwife was in the middle of delivering another baby, to deliver the placenta and check us all out. I found out later that the baby my midwife was delivering was also born at exactly 11:07. She said that had never happened to her before! One thing I absolutely LOVED about Athens Regional Hospital was that they have a policy of immediate skin to skin for a minimum of one hour. We ended up snuggling for over two hours before being separated for just a few moments so that I could clean up and be moved to the mother baby unit. They respected my wish for no first bath and took us both to the new room together, no nursery visit needed. The nursery nurse came to our room to do her assessments and Hannah never had to leave my side.

It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how many times I do this every story is completely different. Birth is such an amazing and powerful experience. It literally just took me over this time. I am incredibly grateful that my experience allowed me to just fully surrender my body to the process and let nature do its job. No tearing, no trauma, and a beautiful perfect baby as a reward. What could possibly be better?

Peace baby | SmithSquad | natural hospital birth | Athens Regional Hospital | newborn baby gives peace sign
She’s already a cool cat. Photograph courtesy of Elsa Shaw Photography.

If you’d like to read my other birth stories they are all on the blog as well

Baby 1

Baby 2

Baby 3

Baby 4

Baby 5

Baby 6

Baby 7

Have you written out your birth stories? I’d love to read them. Drop a link in the comments!

Natural Birth- My Story and Favorite Resources

Why and How I Chose Natural Birth

If you’ve read any of my birth stories you know that I am a huge fan of drug free birth whenever possible. When I was pregnant with my first my mother told me a little about her birth experiences. She had an epidural with the first five kids and then was all natural for the 6th. She told me that if she could go back she would do them all without. Now this isn’t because she had super hero syndrome, as some people like to say those of us who choose natural birth do, it was because with the comparison of both ways behind her she could see the advantages of a medication free birth.

How and Why I chose Natural Birth and some of my favorite resources to prepare for and manage the pain | SmithSquad.com

When I had my first I hadn’t decided what I was going to do, but I had the discussion with my mother in the back of my mind. When they asked me if I wanted an epidural I thought about that giant needle in my back (shudder) and my mother’s words and said no thanks. I did, however accept their offer for IV narcotics. I had the IV meds with each of my first three babies. In all three they did nothing to relieve the pain, they just made me loopy and silly so that I didn’t care.

With baby #4 I was determined not to cave to those IV meds again, I didn’t like the way they separated me from the experience. It was almost as if I was watching someone else do the work of bringing a baby to earth. I also didn’t like the way they affected my second baby when they were administered too close to when she was born. They made her very sleepy and she refused to eat causing her to lose way too much weight in the first few days. This is also when I first started doing research in to how to have a pleasant natural birth and why anyone would want one to begin with. I learned about pain management techniques, different positions, and the reasons why in order to keep me committed.

Natural Birth Resources and Supplies |SmithSquad.com | Pain management in labor | Essential oils | Breathing | Study Methods
Me and my mommy

Here are a few of my favorite resources and techniques for achieving an enjoyable natural birth:

Natural Birth Books

There are tons of great books out there to help you prepare for a natural birth. My favorite is Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Ina May is the most well-known home birth midwife in the United States and her insights are amazing. I love how she shares so many positive, yet completely different birth stories in the beginning of the book. Here is a list of the other books I’ve read and enjoyed or which have come highly recommended from other natural birth enthusiasts.

Natural Birth Pain Management

There are so many ways to manage pain from breathing to hypnosis, counter pressure to essential oils. I personally use mainly a birth ball, hot water, breathing, and oils. Believe it or not I had never even tried counter pressure until baby #7. Oh boy was it magical! You’d better believe I’ll be putting the hubs to work on that one with baby #8 due in 3.5 weeks! All of the books listed above will provide you with tips and techniques. Here are a few of my favorite products for pain management.

Natural Birth Study Courses

I personally never used a specific method, but many mothers find that studying and preparing for a specific technique really helps them. The main home study courses available are Hypnobabies and Hypnobirth. There are also several classroom options including Birth Boot Camp (also has online class options), Bradley Method, and Lamaze.


What helps you through a natural childbirth? What resources would you want to share with first time moms who are considering natural birth? If you are a first time mom what are your biggest fears and questions related to natural childbirth?

What’s in my Hospital bag?

I can’t believe baby #8 is due in 4 weeks! Seems like the perfect time for a blog post about what’s in my hospital bag. With 5 hospital births under my belt I think I’ve got a pretty good grasp on what I need and what I don’t. With my first kid we actually wheeled in a small suitcase lol. With this one I probably won’t even fill my backpack.

I usually wait to pack a hospital bag until I’m actually in labor. It gives me something to do to keep busy and not focus on obsessively timing contractions. I’m pretty good at it by now, so it is calming, not stressful. If you’re a first or second time mom you may want to at least make a list of what needs to be in your hospital bag even if you wait till the last moment to actually pack it.

What's in my Hospital Bag with baby #8 | smithSquad.com |Large Family | Birth | Natural Birth

Hospital Bag for Mom

Kindle- One of the best ways for me to relax in labor and stay entertained after baby is born is by reading a great book. I like having my Kindle Fire because it is small and can carry a ton of books. I can also use it to connect to hospital WiFi and give play by play updates of labor for the family and instantly post all the adorable brand new baby pictures I am sure to take. If reading isn’t your thing bring something that will give you a bit of entertainment/distraction like coloring supplies, music, playing cards, travel games, etc.

2-3 each comfy yoga/pajama pants and t-shirts- I’m not trying to impress anyone, I’m just trying to be comfortable! I really like the roll top waist yoga pants because they are great for adjusting to that post partum belly. If you get the ones with a little compression it can also help hold everything in when you’re feeling all jiggly and out of sorts. With my first I flattened right out in a few days, but my hips had spread and I never fit into my old jeans again. With each baby it’s taken longer to lose that pregnant look. You should just expect to look about 4 months pregnant when you get home and plan your clothing accordingly. If you want something nicer to wear for pictures or the ride home then bring a pair of your maternity pants. You won’t be putting on those pre-pregnancy clothes for a while. It’s also nice to have comfy flip flops/sandals or slip on shoes.

2 Nursing bras- I usually use only one in the few days I’m there, but it’s always great to have a back-up just in case you have any leaking, spit-up, or other mess. My favorite daytime bras are Bravado and for night a comfy nursing tank is great to have. I have also heard great things about the Cake brand nursing bras, though I haven’t tried them myself.

Travel size toiletries- Most hospitals will give you soap and shampoo for your first shower, but they aren’t the best quality and sometimes smell funny. I prefer to have my own favorite brands with me so I can really enjoy that first post-partum shower. It really does feel glorious to get clean in nice hot water after doing all that work of bringing a baby Earthside. Rather than find the small bottles of each of my favorite things I prefer to just get small travel bottles and fill them with the big bottles from my shower. And don’t forget the toothbrush, hairbrush, hair ties, chapstick, etc. that you use daily.

Snacks- The rules against eating in labor are a bunch of bologna and I always ignore them. I make sure to eat a good meal before I leave for the hospital and have a few snacks in my bag as well. Granola bars are my favorite. Carbs for instant energy and protein to get me through the marathon. If you aren’t a rebel and don’t want to eat in labor honey sticks are a great option for a little burst of energy if you start feeling drained. Plus they are really yummy! I also find that the three meals a day schedule of the hospitals doesn’t work for a breastfeeding mom. I am always STARVING before the next meal gets there. Having snacks to get me through from one meal to the next is crucial.

Essential Oils- I have a few oils that I really like to use in labor. I personally use DoTerra oils. Clary sage diluted in coconut oil is rubbed on my belly to help strengthen and regulate contractions, it is also very calming and helps a bit with pain relief. I then like to put Serenity oil on one wrist and Lemon oil on the other. The serenity oil helps me relax and breathe deep through contractions while the lemon is a refreshing pick me up.

Things you probably don’t need- Don’t bother with pads or underwear unless you are just super emotionally attached to your cute panties. The hospital will provide awesome huge pads and these cool comfy mesh underwear. They aren’t cute, but they work awesome! Some mom’s really want their own pillow, but I would recommend leaving it in the car when you go in. If you want it you can send your support person down to get it. I wouldn’t bring it into the delivery room at all because it’s likely to get messy! Don’t bring any clothes that you don’t want to ruin. Between baby blowouts, spit-up and your own blood chances are just about anything you wear in the hospital is going to come home with a stain on it.

Hospital Bag for Baby

New Baby Must Haves- Muslin Swaddle Blankets | SmithSquad.com | What things are absolutely necessary on a tight budget or in a tiny space?

Muslin swaddle blankets- These are #1 on my list of favorite baby products. The muslin blankets are so much easier to swaddle with than the hospital blankets, and way cuter too. You can use just one if it’s warm and layer then if it’s cold. They also make great spit up rags.

Going Home/Photo outfit- You don’t need a bunch of clothes for baby. While you are there it’s easiest for them to do all their routine checks if you just keep baby in the simple undershirt that they provide and swaddle them. The only clothes you will need is if you want something cute for photos and/or going home.

Things you probably don’t need- Yep, that’s really the end of my list for baby. The hospital provides a nose sucker, diapers, wipes, diaper cream, undershirts, etc. so you really don’t need much at all. They also let you take the extras from the opened packages with you, so you don’t even need diapers and wipes for the trip home. If you need a warm fuzzy you can always call and ask the hospital about what they provide and what brands in case you have any specific preferences.

Hospital bag for dad/support partner

He’s on his own- kidding….sort of. I don’t pack my husband’s bag, he really is on his own, but here are a few suggestions of things they may want to bring.

Camera- I can not believe how many times we have forgotten this! Thank goodness for cell phones with cameras! 8 years ago when Maddy was born they were pretty horrible quality. Now days a cell phone camera is perfectly adequate for basic shots to share with friends. Of course the better the camera the better the shots you will get. This time around I am finally getting a birth photographer to attend, but I will also be bringing my own camera for shots before she gets there and after she leaves. I personally shoot with and love my Sony A6000. Nice and compact, but great quality and every bit as much control as a full size DSLR.

Change of Clothes- Even if you have support people that are not planning to stay long after the birth it’s always good for them to have a change of clothes just in case. You never know how long a labor will last.

Toiletries- At a minimum they will probably want a toothbrush and hairbrush. If they are planning to stay with you the entire time then they will probably need their travel size soaps and shampoos as well.

Entertainment- While their primary role is to support you there may be moments where you just want everyone to leave you alone! It’s always good for your support person to bring a book, magazine, paperwork or something else to keep themselves busy if needed.

Miscellaneous items you may need

There are also a few things you should throw in the car for just in case scenarios. It’s great to have a small homebirth kit in case you don’t make it to the hospital in time. These small kits have gloves, a cord clamp, a pad to put under mom and a few other items to help out in an emergency birth situation. It’s also great to read up on what to do in a birth situation  in advance just in case. You will, of course, also need a carseat to bring baby home in, and depending on the weather may need warm blankets as well.

As you can see my list is rather minimalistic. I prefer to have a small bag and not much to worry about when I’m there. Is there anything you feel is a necessity that I forgot? What are your favorite bras, snacks, clothes, etc?


Birth Story- Baby #4, All Natural Hospital Birth

Miss Leah was the first one to join our family after we moved to Winder, GA in 2010. Having been born and raised in Utah and Nevada I had never experienced a humid Georgia summer before. I thought I was going to DIE!! I think I spent the entire last month of pregnancy either sitting on the couch with my feet up or in the pool at the YMCA. during this time I read the book “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth” and was 100% inspired to have an all natural birth with this baby.

Leah was due two days before my birthday. At 40 weeks and 1 day I went in for a regular check-up. 4:30 pm. I had been having contractions off and on for a week, but that day had been pretty quiet and nothing was happening.  When Dr. Pohl checked and pronounced me ~50% effaced and dilated to two. I told him to go ahead and sweep my membranes to hopefully get things moving. My husband, Cameron, was working nights at the time, so he was sleeping when contractions started up around 6:30. Around 7:30 I got the other kids put to bed and woke Cameron up to tell him I wasn’t sure yet, so stay in bed, but be prepared to jump if I say jump then hopped in the tub. I knew from experience that a warm bath always calms my contractions down if they aren’t the real deal. Well this bath sped things up!

At around 8:30 I woke Cameron again, told him to call work and grandma and started packing a bag. No I had not packed my bag yet. I never pack my hospital bag in advance. I’m a procrastinator like that lol. Grandma got here, we called the doctor who said he’d meet us there, and headed out arriving at Gwinnett Medical Center around 10:30. It was CROWDED!! It took until 11:30 just to get us back into the observation room, where we were met by a smiling Dr. Pohl. We were in the observation room for about 30 minutes before we were able to get back to a delivery room.

We got into the delivery room around 12am and of course they immediately wanted to start hooking up the IV. For the first time ever I had the guts to say no. One nurse was very pushy and didn’t want to take no for an answer. Luckily the other nurse dreamed of training to be a home birth midwife and was very much on my side. She said lets ask the Doctor. He said let me check her out first. When he got there and checked around 12:45am I was already dilated to a 7.5 and baby was fully engaged. He said no need for an IV. He broke my water and settled in to wait. Yep, my awesome Doctor, knowing how fast my previous labors were, just sat there with me for about 30 minutes and waited for baby to arrive.

At 1:23 am, on my birthday, after 3 pushes Leah entered the world and was immediately placed on my chest. This was the first time that had happened. It was magical! Such a beautiful and powerful moment that I couldn’t believe I had missed out on before. She immediately started breastfeeding like a champ and we were allowed to just snuggle and feed for over an hour. I don’t think I ever had more than 15-20 minutes with my baby before they were whisked off for weight, measurements, bath etc. That time together was priceless.


Overall that was my most beautiful birth experience to date. I felt powerful and in control of my body. Because I didn’t have the IV drugs that I had accepted before I was fully present in the moment and I was able to really completely bond with my baby in those first few moments. I think that resulted in much more stable hormones for the rest of the post partum period. I knew there was no way I would ever let them put any drugs in me ever again! I would definitely recommend Gwinnett Medical Center and Dr. Pohl to any mother looking for a natural hospital birth.

If you’re interested you can read the rest of my birth stories here on the blog as well

Baby 1

Baby 2

Baby 3

Baby 5

Baby 6

Baby 7 

Baby 8

Birth Story| Baby #2 was in a hurry to get here!

About 2 weeks before my due date in March of 2008 I went in for a regular appointment and was told that everything was closed up tight and see you again next week. That afternoon I started having contractions. They weren’t crazy intense like my first baby, but they were definitely uncomfortable. I was in the Marine Corps at the time, and all those men were rather uncomfortable with me having contractions at the office so they sent me home. My husband was also a Marine so I drove to his work about 5 minutes away and we spent his lunch hour walking the track and driving on bumpy roads. His boss said they weren’t doing anything super important that afternoon so go ahead and take me home.

I got to enjoy those lovely prodromal contractions for 2 whole days. Not very painful, but incredibly annoying! On the evening of the second day of almost non-stop 7-10 minute contractions we had some friends over for dinner. The last belly shot I got was of their baby asleep on my bump!

my belly bump through pregnancy|emilyjphoto.com| birth story|newborn and birth photography

After they left Cameron (my hubs) was already in bed about 90% passed out when I went to the bathroom and my water broke. There was no doubt what that giant gush was. Instantly I started having contractions I could barely walk through every 3-4 minutes.

“babe, get up. We need to go to the hospital”

“What? Are you sure?”


We called a neighbor to come sit with the oldest for a few minutes until his stepmom could come get him and headed out the door. It was normally about 45 minutes to the hospital, but with lack of traffic and Cameron driving we got there in just under 30. They checked me in around 10:30 and got me hooked up to all their monitors and such. I got a shot of IV pain meds which one again made me loopy, but didn’t lessen the pain. A little before midnight the nurse came in to check me right as I had the urge to push. She called for the doctor and he barely had time to get his gloves on before Madeline flew into the world after only 3 pushes.

As soon as she arrived Cameron wanted to cover me in hugs and kisses, I told him to leave me alone! lol I hadn’t seen or heard my girl yet and he was blocking my view! He went over to check her out and that’s when I heard her first cries and the nurses told me she looked perfect. We had forgotten the camera in the rush out the door (pack a bag? what?! That’s for planners, not impulsive people like me!), but luckily this time around we had a camera in the cell phone and Dad caught this beautiful picture of our first little girl grabbing his finger.

newborn baby holding dad's finger|emilyjphoto.com|newborn photography|birth story

One thing I absolutely loved about the military hospitals was that every baby rooms in with mom from the beginning. First bath and everything else is done right there with me watching. What I didn’t like was that it was all done before I got to hold my girl. Once they finally handed her to me I didn’t want to let her go!

Madeline was my earliest baby as well as my fastest labor. I really think that all of the healthy eating and exercise I did as a Marine helped a ton with preparing my body for a wonderful experience both during labor and after birth. I was definitely in the best shape of my life at that point. I have since read the book “Exercising Through Your Pregnancy” by Dr. James Clapp. He has confirmed after YEARS of research that women who exercise regularly before and during pregnancy have faster, easier labors and usually give birth earlier within the 38-41 week normal window than women who don’t stay active. Unfortunately this knowledge has not kept me totally consistent in my exercise efforts with future pregnancies.

Just for fun here are a few more crappy cell phone pics from the proud daddy of his new girl scrapbooked rather unimpressively by me when I was just learning Corel Paint Shop Pro!

newborn photos|emilyjphoto.com| Birth photography|fresh 48

Once again I didn’t have an Epidural. the anesthesiologist wouldn’t have gotten there in time even if I had asked lol. I did get an IV shot again, but it was given very close to birth because she came so fast. I think this contributed to the fact that it was INCREDIBLY difficult to get her to wake up and latch on to breastfeed for the first 24 hours or so. Poor baby was drugged!

Overall this was a much better birth experience than my first and increased my confidence in my body to do what it was built to do.

If you’re interested you can read the rest of my birth stories here on the blog as well

Baby 1

Baby 3

Baby 4

Baby 5

Baby 6

Baby 7 

Baby 8

Birth Story- My First Baby

I realized recently that I have not taken the time to write out most of my birth stories. These are the stories that I want my kids to have, so I’d better get them out there before I forget more than just the little details.

I had my first baby in 2001 when I was 19. I was pretty carefree and “invincible”. I was a Marine. If I could go through boot camp I could do anything! I didn’t really do anything to prepare beyond the 1 hour required new mom birth class at the Naval Hospital. I didn’t have a birth plan.

I started having contractions about every 7 minutes while watching a movie in the base theater. Form the very first one they were INTENSE. I waited it out during the movie (had already been to the hospital for false labor twice) then headed in about 9:30 at night. They hooked me up and said “contractions every 5-6 minutes and wow those are STRONG!” Then they checked my cervix. Zero effacement and zero dilation.

I cried.

they disconnected me from the monitors and told me to go home. I asked if they could give me some pain medication. Take Motrin. Geez thanks guys. I felt so defeated. What was wrong with my body?

I went home a laid on the couch contracting every 5 minutes all night long. I cried and cried. I hadn’t prepared and I didn’t know a darn thing about managing this pain on my own. About 12:30am I got a call form one of the nurses. She asked how I was doing. I told her through my tears how frustrated I was and that the contractions were killing me! She coached me through a few contractions and helped me to breathe and relax. She then told me to come back first thing in the morning. Shift change was at 7 and the new head Dr. coming on would make sure to either stop contractions or get that baby out. WE went back in at about 7:30. I was fully effaced and dilated to 5!!! I was super excited and also a bit mad at the mean nurse form the night before who thought the first time mom was clearly exaggerating her pain level.

By the time they got me all checked in and offered an epidural I decided I didn’t need one. I had been undecided before because honestly the idea of a giant needle in my back totally freaked me out!! After going all night long contracting on my own I decided I could totally do this and I didn’t need it. I did accept a shot of some pain medication in my IV. Stuff didn’t touch the pain, but it made me not care that it hurt. Shortly after they administered the meds baby’s heart rate started decelerating with each contraction. they were discussing a C-section. Thankfully little bub decided it was time to make his grand entrance before the attending midwife could get an OB up to labor and delivery.

When it came time to push I was completely fighting my body. It hurt and I didn’t like it!! Each time the ring of fire started I pulled back and screamed. after about 3-4 times doing that the midwife attending told me very rudely “If you put as much effort into pushing as you did  screaming you’d have a baby by now!” While I thought she was a big jerk I did take her advice and on the next push he was out. All told I only pushed for about 5 minutes.

I honestly don’t really remember much else after that. I was totally wiped out. I do remember scarfing down a hot meal right there in the labor room then insisting I wanted to get up and walk to my recovery room. They thought I was crazy, but I walked with a nurse on either side ready to catch me if I fell.

I was pretty disappointed with my birth experience. I was filled with my own fear and doubts. I fought my body. I made things much worse on myself by not trusting my body. My “birth partner” aka ex-husband was completely disconnected and useless.

Despite all the negative feelings, however, I did walk away from that experience with a sense of power. I had done it. I had a natural vaginal birth. I was in awe of what my body could do. I also gained a determination to know and do better next time.

emily j photographer|birth story
Since I don’t have any birth photos of my first I will let you enjoy his cute 4 year old smile.


My biggest regret is that I don’t have a single photo from his birth. This was before the days of digital cameras in our phones and no photos were taken during the birth at all. The few pictures I had from the days afterwords in the hospital were lost or destroyed in the divorce. That’s one thing I definitely rectified for the future. Even if it’s a crappy cell phone shot, I have a picture of each of my brand new babies covered in their birthday frosting!

If you’re interested you can read the rest of my birth stories here on the blog as well

Baby 2

Baby 3

Baby 4

Baby 6

Baby 5

Baby 7 

Baby 8


Run Like a Girl

Have you seen this video from Always? They brought in several people and asked them to do things “like a girl”. Run like a girl, hit like a girl, fight like a girl, etc. The results were very enlightening.

I joined the Marines when I was 18 because I was sick of people looking at me and treating me “like a girl”. Simply being female made me weak, frail, silly, etc. For many years I embraced that and played it up, but it was like a grain of sand in your shoe that causes you more and more irritation the longer it’s in there. I was more than just make-up, high heels, and flirty silliness. I was out to show the world that even a 100lb skinny little white girl could be tough. I can’t even begin to list the number of comments that I received telling me I’d never make it when I announced my decision to go to bootcamp. Not only did I make it, but I did a pretty darn good job at it if I say so myself. I was one of the first ones to reach the top of the rope in boot camp. I was an E-6 at 7.5 years.  I completed a tour to Iraq. I was the main person from the shop briefing the colonel, at his request. I don’t mean to sound braggy, but you know what, I’m proud of the work that I did while I was enlisted (as long as we don’t talk about my abysmal scores on the rifle range that is).

Then I got out so that I could be a stay at home mom. This time I didn’t get you can’t do it comments. Instead I got the why would you want to? I was told that being a SAHM wasn’t a life and that I would regret not pursuing my career. I had to listen to my superiors tell me on a daily basis that I would regret getting out, didn’t I at least want to go reserve? Embracing my womanhood by being a mom wasn’t something to be proud of the way being a Marine was.

newborn baby born at home|homebirth|unassisted birth
Yeah, I did that, 100% natural home-birth, LIKE A GIRL!

Do I regret my decision? Never. Do I miss my job? Of course I do. Every choice in life has sacrifices. Do I feel less than because I’m a stay at home mom instead of a working woman. Not even a little bit. I am strong. I am tough. I am creating the next generation that will rule the world. Shoot I’d love to see any of those tough Marines I worked with do what I’ve done having a baby at home with no medication. Being a girl is amazing and powerful and I won’t let anyone tell me otherwise!

I run like a girl and I am proud of it!